Ex-SAL route to lose all passenger service?

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If I read this right, The ex-SAL line through Wildwood will be losing its passenger service. With the upcoming Amtrak schedule, the PALMETTO-turned-SILVER PALM will revert to a New York-Savannah all-day schedule, leaving Wildwood, Waldo, Ocala, and Dade City with only bus connections to the STAR, which will now serve Tampa via the ex-ACL through Lakeland and Orlando. At least sleepers and diners will once again burnish the rails at TUS. Otherwise, this is really sad news; what's to keep this segemnt from going the same way as did Auburndale-Wildwood? Any thoughts?

-- Bob Venditti (bobvend@bellsouth.net), October 20, 2004


Troy, the recent issue of TRAINS lists CSX's Kissimmee-West Palm Beach segment as being considered for sale or lease. The Old Dominion Chapter NRHS newsletter also lists this. I agree that casting off any portion of its Orlando-Auburndale segemnt makes no sense whatsoever for CSX.

-- Bob Venditti (bobvend@bellsouth.net), October 23, 2004.

they would not dump orlando to auburndale, if anything they would dump auburndale to west palm beach... there is really no freight online between winter haven and west palm

that is alot of track to maintain for a few rock trains a week and a couple other mixed trains + 4 amtrak's a day

it would be pretty stupid of them to dump orlando to auburndale, I think this must be a typo

-- troy nolen (tnolen12@tampabay.rr.com), October 23, 2004.

Aaron, right you are - I was thinking 1960s when I posted my answer, and certainly didn't mean to slight the late, great OBS, which made its last run in 1953. Seaboard had other trains too on the line in earlier years.

-- Larry Goolsby (lgoolsby@aphsa.org), October 22, 2004.


You are correct that CSX sold its line between West Palm Beach and Miami to the Florida Department of Transportation. That section of track is now designated at the "South Florida Rail Corridor", with the majority of train traffic being in the form of Tri-Rail commuter passenger trains. CSX retained trackage rights on the line, but their freight trains occupy the line during non-use periods by the commuter train traffic. CSX was also retained by the FDOT to continue as the dispatcher for all train traffic on the line.

CSX's Miami - Homestead line has seen a recent increase in train traffic due to some new limestone mines in the Homestead area.

FEC has been identified as a potential suitor, but officially, FEC isn't showing much interest. The real question is why would FEC be interested in the line? Under the existing set-up, if they wanted to take over operations on the x-CSX South Florida Rail Corridor after CSX pulls out (assuming that CSX gives up and pulls out), all is needed is the construction of a connector track in the West Palm Beach area and sign an operations contract with the Florida Department of Transportation.

Why FEC would be interested in the West Palm Beach - Auburndale portion of CSX's former SAL mainline is the REAL question. Not a lot of rail traffic is generated on this 150-mile section of track. FEC already has a connection with the South Florida Express RR for sugar carloadings, so no benefit would be gained from acquiring the CSX's connection to the sugar mills around the south side of Lake Okeechobee.

Several short line operators are known to be giving the line serious consideration, including the Pinsly Corporation (the Florida Central family of lines), since they already have a Central Florida operating base. Rail America, headquartered in south Florida, is also rumored to be interested.

Again, stay tuned to the next episode!

-- Aaron Dowling (adowling@merandb.com), October 22, 2004.

Thanks for the replies; I wasn't aware this line handled the heavy freight traffic that it does. As far as CSX's Orlando-Auburndale doings, I understand it also wants to unload the ex-SAL south to Miami as well, with FEC being a possible suitor. Corect me if I'm wrong, but isn't WPB-Miami right-of-way now owned by Fla. DOT? No one ever mentions the Hialeah-Homestead branch, which CSX has wanted to unload for a long time, at least a portion of it anyway. Railroad soap opera indeed.

-- Bob Venditti (bpbvend@bellsouth.net), October 21, 2004.


Let's not forget the world-famous ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL from the list of renowned passenger trains flying along the SAL during the "glory years"!

You are very right that this route is, and will continue to be a major route of CSX freight traffic in Florida. Noteworthy happenings that support this position are: (1) CSX finally got around to replacing jointed rail and wooden ties on the section between Vitis and Plant City with welded rail and concrete ties; and (2) CSX has announced that it will consider offers from qualified short line operators to take over operations on the "A" line between Orlando and Auburndale, Florida. This action, if followed through, would leave the former SAL line as CSX's one and only line to Tampa and the central and southern Florida service areas.

Somewhat ironically, CSX's action of dumping the Orlando - Auburndale section could result in a reshifting of Amtrak service back onto the former SAL mainline. Stay tuned for the next episode in this railroad "soap opera".

-- Aaron Dowling (adowling@merandb.com), October 21, 2004.

This will remain a busy freight route so I don't think there's any danger the track will go away, but this definitely marks another big chunk of the ex-SAL that will no longer see passenger service. This segment has a rich passenger train history. It once saw the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Palmland, and Sunland, and sections of most of these split at Wildwood for Tampa/St. Petersburg. The only ex-SAL passenger trackage now left on the north-south mainline will be Raleigh-Columbia-Savannah and Auburndale-Miami. (Amtrak also still uses Jax-Chattahoochee for the Sunset)

-- Larry Goolsby (lgoolsby@aphsa.org), October 21, 2004.

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